I think most of us remember our first childhood friend – the first person outside of your immediate family whom you share a piece of yourself with, completely unguarded and natural. The friendship forms and blossoms quite smoothly during an innocent time before there is much conditioning from the world around us. This was my experience at least.
Mandy was her name and she was my neighbor. I found this intriguing and lovely as her name was a shortened version of my own. She was older than me by 4 or 5 years (my memory can no longer remember for certain if it was the former or latter), but I can still recall aspiring to be like her someday at the mere age of 4 or 5. She had a wild energy about her; an energy that effortlessly captivated the attention of those around her yet she was also kind and gentle at times. Her imagination matched her energy so I was never bored during the long, hot summer days when we were together the most. I remember the afternoons spent with chalk on sidewalks and the multi-colored suns we created, the bracelets and crowns made out of weedy flowers but fit for a queen, the times we climbed the large logs of wood in her backyard and watched as the train passed by (yes, there were train tracks nearly in our backyard).
Expectedly, my childhood memories continue to blur with increasing age so distant memories are more like snapshot images, a collage of moments thrown together in my mind. I see my friend twirling round and round engrossed in our laughter, cool grass beneath our feet as we soak in the summer sun, moments on the porch swing and Kool-Aid Bursts, quenching thirst, earthy hands from mud pies and other concoctions, hop-scotch art, nights swirling with fireflies, secret words for a hidden clubhouse, wishes blown with already faded dandelions, and adventures in a forbidden land. We put our imagination together and enjoyed ourselves without judgement or fear as these two words were not a part of our vernacular yet, at least not a part of mine. Societal expectations and worldly influences had not crept into the crevices of my mind, but Mandy was older than me and while I cannot speak on her behalf perhaps our friendship was a welcome reminder of innocence, a pause button on life where she could explore and create just a bit more before resuming play. I like to imagine this was her experience.
I am thankful for my first friend and the time we had together. I am sure that our friendship was much shorter than I truly remember as I cannot even remember the ending of the relationship. She may have moved or was it time that moved us? Time has a way of doing this; she slips in all so gradually without being noticed during our innocent years. As a child, we welcome time to pass so we can uncover the mysteries and wonders she has hidden behind her cloak. As an adult, we wish for time to be unhurried as we learn what she truly is: a gift to be savored and appreciated but one that can easily be taken away. It is unfortunate that many of us dampen our spark and creativity, our visionary ideals, that we aimed at one point to make our reality during a time of our life when we finally know the power time holds. Passions beaming with imagination once at the forefront of our developing minds now seem like far-away dreams no longer meant for this lifetime.
Every once and awhile I think of my first friend and her energizing spirit. I think of the jubilant adventures we had in our spacious lands and even more so in our whimsical minds. Our friendship reminds me of childhood innocence and the liberating power that transpires when I am my authentic self, a word of today’s time that is quite popular and for good reason. Mandy was her authentic self and it showed. She did not shy away from making friends with her next door neighbor who was younger than her and instead embraced our friendship welcomingly. I am still on my journey in discovering my authentic self and in this process I am letting go of what no longer serves me. Reflection is an important part so I ask you to think back to your first childhood friend, of the memories you created and shared. What moments can you remember? What do these memories mean to you in your current stage of life and can you glean any wisdom from them?